Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Grammar of Author-Date (3)

Consider the following claim, which has been published in a perfectly good management journal:

Organizations are accomplished linguistically and are enacted discursively. Through discourse, organizational members structure their experience of reality (Foucault, 1972) and make sense of their experience in doing so (Weick, 1995).

Weick 1995 is Sensemaking in Organizations, which is familiar to organization theorists. Foucault 1972 is listed in the bibliography as follows:

Foucault, M. (1972). The order of discourse. New York: Pantheon Books.

But Pantheon did not publish a book called The Order of Discourse in 1972. Pantheon published The Archeology of Knowledge in that year, and it included as a postscript a translation of Foucault's L'ordre du discours, which was published in 1971 by Gallimard. But the title of the postscript was "The Discourse on Language". Needless to say, you should avoid this kind of mistake in your referencing.

But there are more serious problems here, which have to do with the way the sentence brings together "discourse" and "organization". Foucault does not write about organizations and Weick does not really write about discourse. Consider the following sentences, which can be analyzed straightforwardly out of the second sentence quoted above:

Organizational members structure their experience of reality through discourse (Foucault, 1972).

Organizational members make sense of their experience by structuring their experience of reality through discourse (Weick, 1995).

When referencing, make sure that the text you cite actually makes the claim you want it to support. There is no shortage of texts out there that make the connection that is needed here, and these text of course also site Foucault and Weick. In this case, I think the references are only intended to fix the meaning of the words "make sense" (Weick 1995) and "discourse" (Foucault 1972). They are not intended as support for the claim being made.

More on this on Friday.


Jonathan said...

You'd really need a page number or page range too for the Foucault. That reference implies "Read the whole book," yet the book doesn't really say that, and says many other things that are not that as well.

Thomas Basbøll said...

I agree (also for Weick). Unfortunately, some journals only allow specific page references with direct quotation. (I don't know why.)

I'm going to look at the Foucault text on Friday.